Southlake panel rejects adding lights at Carroll High athletic fields

SOUTHLAKE -- The Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday night denied a request from the Carroll school district for a zoning variance that would allow installation of 60- to 90-foot light poles on baseball and softball fields at Carroll High School.

The vote was 3-1, with Commissioner Todd Parish casting the vote in favor of the lights. Commissioner Michael Forman abstained from voting, saying he lives near the school.

The final decision lies with the City Council, which is scheduled to consider the commission's recommendation on Jan. 15.

The fields back up to the Stone Lake and Park Place neighborhoods, and residents, many dressed in red, turned out to oppose the request.

Supporters of the lights, many wearing green Carroll Dragon shirts, argued that the lack of lights means that high school softball games have to be played at the city's Bob Jones Park. Baseball games have to be played at the campus because no city park field has 90-foot base paths. But the games have to start at 4 p.m. so they end before dark.

Softball player Alexa Wimberly said her parents choose the Carroll district because there's a tradition of excellence.

"We simply desire to use our facilities designed for our sports," she said as many Dragon teammates stood behind her.

Her mother, Jamie Wimberly, said the lights were a "generation overdue" because baseball players miss classes and softball players are shipped to a city park to play.

It's the "price of progress" and the "most fiscally responsible option," she said.

Neighbors cited years of promises by the Carroll school district that lights wouldn't be put up on the field.

Lisa Vassios said her "family's quality of life is being threatened" by lights right by their homes.

"Please continue to protect our citizens and the quality of the Southlake community we chose so closely," she said.

Neighbor Ray Semadeni said the light poles would be as close as 60 feet to nearby homes. He reminded the audience of a light pole collapse in Sanger in 2009.

"No one has been injured but school district officials say that was just luck," he said.

A varsity baseball and softball season consists of about 16 home games when the lights would be needed, not counting postseason and night practices.

The district wants to put six 60-foot light standards on the softball fields and eight light poles on the baseball fields, ranging in height from 70 to 90 feet.

Baseball and softball parent Bob Morgan said the city put lights on its own fields in recent years and this is no different.

"You've lighted every competitive field," Morgan said. "Bottom line we are just in support in the due diligence to put lights up. We're not here to talk about lights falling down. God forbid that happen."

Nicholas Sakelaris,

817-431-2231, ext. 34